Today we just received the last couple of items that were made especially for your prize-packs (we think you'll really love them!) -- so, the elves are packing as we speak and will be sending them out no later than Monday morning. We apologize for the delay, as we are a week behind.
When they are sent we'll email you Fed Ex tracking numbers. Thank you all for being patient.
Please note: International winners, you will be getting an Amazon certificate via email tomorrow. We just found out yesterday that winners from Canada & the UK may have been billed additionally. This shouldn't have happened, since we already paid for shipping. We are following up to resolve this matter. So, if you received a bill for a prize pack, please email us and let us know, and we'll take care of it. We'd love to mail you your prizes, but it seems we can't take that chance of having them bill you, especially after we've already paid for it! Arg!
Once again, we apologize for the delay, and prizes will be sent out no later than Monday morning. Sit tight!
WOW: Judy, congratulations for earning a Runner Up space in our WOW! Summer Flash Fiction Contest! How did you feel when you read about it?
Judy: I was shocked and honored to be in the company of such experienced writers. This is the first time since college that I have put writing out for public review. I kept reading the email on my Blackberry to make sure it wasn’t a dream.
WOW: That’s a big compliment to all our writers. Please tell us the inspiration behind “Summer Sons.”
Judy: My brother, Russell Traughber, sent out an email to the family and said, “Go ahead, write.” So I did. The storyline is a tribute to my parents, who still live in Idaho, and my five older brothers. Now that I am able to put some perspective on my early years, I appreciate more the world of my youth. The boys’ fishing trips were always a mystery to me (I would take a book and read if I went), but I realize now what a treat it was for my brothers to spend time with my dad--a very busy and dedicated minister. WOW: Well, I’m sure your parents are proud and pleased by the tribute! In your bio you mentioned that you’ve been an educator for twenty-one years. Do you think teaching contributes to your desire to write?
Judy: Literature is the greatest teacher of all. Growing up in a small town with three television stations meant there was an entire world out there to be discovered: I expanded my universe through books. I once told my superintendent that every predicament of human nature can be found in Shakespeare’s works. Teaching was a venue for me to share life’s wonders, troubles, and triumphs with young adults about to venture out on their own. Now that I am an administrator, I have the time to create some of those worlds.
WOW: I certainly hope you continue to build those worlds for your students. But let’s switch subjects for a bit. You said that various writers found in a local public library are your “companions of composition”; can you name some for us?
Judy: When I studied in England I fell in love with the Romantics. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, John Keats’ poetry, and Dylan Thomas (not a Romantic, of course) were my favorites because of their ability to capture the complexity of human nature. Hemingway’s clean style and flawed heroes inspire clarity in writing. I would be remiss not to mention my favorite mystery writers, P.D. James and Carolyn Keene (the Nancy Drew series), because I love to look for clues.
The Ontario, Oregon, public library spawned my eclectic love of reading. Somehow I skipped juvenile literature and moved right to the grown-up part of the library. I can’t recall a single author’s name, but I read (to name a few) a series on Queen Victoria, a book about the crucifixion of Christ from a Roman soldier’s point of view, and books on the Occult (which scared me so much I couldn’t sleep). I read a lot of Ellery Queen mysteries along with historical fiction. It is worth mentioning that my first exposure to literature was the Bible: the poetry, stories, and lessons influence all aspects of my writing.
WOW: Eclectic is definitely a key word in your reading background. That adds a lot to the “well-rounded reader” aspect! In addition to reading, could recommend a couple of authors who’ve encouraged you to write?
Judy: Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) is magical and brutally honest. Kundera, an expatriate of Czechoslovakia since the 60’s, didn’t begin to write until his late 30’s. He said he needed that much time to have the maturity to write: his “late start” gave me hope as I worked and raised a family during my twenties and thirties. I still have a middle-schooler at home, but with his increased independence comes more time for me to write.
Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite American authors. Although I have enjoyed all of her books, The Poisonwood Bible is the most compelling as literature. Nadine Gordimer of South Africa is not afraid to confront societal issues and, of course, Maya Angelou’s writing is artistic whether it is poetry or prose. All of these authors create life through the power of language: they serve as an inspiration for the female voice. WOW: How true. I certainly agree with you there. Tell us, do you have any other specific goals for your writing career?
Judy: To make writing a career would be a dream come true. I will take this one step at a time as I reconnect with poetry, my first love, and other genres. In addition, I intend to write essays and journal articles that reflect hope and respect for educators and students. WOW: Educators have one of the toughest careers. Having a supportive network helps in this career, just as much if not more than in a writer’s career. You mentioned in your bio that you have a supportive family. Could you describe how they respect your writing wishes?
Judy: Working as a teacher and then a school site administrator, work consumed my life. My family has always encouraged me to have a hobby, and they are proud that I am trying my hand at the art I have loved and studied for so long. Through my master’s degree and my doctorate, my husband and children supported the time I needed to research and write. Now, at a more creative phase of my life, they wholeheartedly afford me a room of my own. WOW: Virginia Woolf would be so proud! Okay, let’s move to craft books--which ones do you find the most helpful?
Judy: This question is truly embarrassing. I have never read a book on writing (other than textbooks) or publishing. I am at the beginning of this journey. My only comfort is that I am sure most of the writers I admire did not take writing courses or read how-to books; I do know the authors and poets I admire wrote almost every day. To understand the power of storytelling and mythology, I recommend Joseph Campbell’s series on the evolution of the hero and his mantra to “follow your bliss.” WOW: That’s a sound mantra for anyone. What advice would you like to leave with our audience?
Judy: Today is the day to start writing. Afraid to put on paper the thoughts and stories in my head, I ignored for twenty years the voice that always called me to write. Now, when I sit at the computer, I regret the years that have passed unchronicled. Humans have always relied on stories to provide knowledge, perspective, and interpretation; therefore, now is the perfect time to add our voices to literature.
WOW: Today it is! Thank you for your time and for sharing a little about yourself. Readers, if you haven’t yet checked out Judy’s story, “Summer Sons,” go here.
Faith, Hope, and Joy: The Unexpected Side Effects of Cancer BY: Dr. Bernie Siegel, author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles
Here is an exciting opportunity for you to be published in a new book by bestselling author, Dr. Bernie Siegel, in a story collection entitled Faith, Hope, and Joy: The Unexpected Side Effects of Cancer. The book will be published early in 2009, and will consist of stories from cancer patients, their family, and friends. Bernie will follow-up the stories with his own thoughts and professional observations on the topic and the stories themselves.
We are looking for INSPIRATIONAL, TRUE first-person stories that will fit in with the themes of faith, hope, and joy as positive side effects of a battle with cancer. Each story should be at least 1,000 words but no more than 2,500 words in length. Please send double-spaced versions only, in 12 point font Times New Roman, and send them as a WORD attachment.
Should your story be selected by the editors, you will receive a $50 permission fee and a copy of the hardcover book. Your name will appear at the end of your story, and a one paragraph contributor bio will be included in the back of the book.
We are accepting submissions for Faith, Hope, and Joy until December 15, 2007. Please INCLUDE YOUR NAME, ADDRESS, PHONE NUMBER, AND EMAIL ADDRESS AND submit stories to:
DUE TO THE VOLUME OF SUBMISSIONS, ONLY FINALISTS WILL BE NOTIFIED BY THE EDITORS.
After you’ve tried your hardest at something, whether it’s writing an article or practicing soccer, do you get offended when your coach, friend, or colleague tells you that what you just did was wrong?
An angry soccer coach may scream, “Don’t kick the ball with your toe!” or “You’re doing it wrong!” The same goes for a writing partner, but the tone would probably be more constructive. “You should use an active voice here,” or “I can’t visualize the character. You need more description.”
The other day I watched Randy Pausch give his final lecture on Oprah. I was watching because I knew Kris Carr would be on there, and you know how much I love her! Her appearance was amazing, btw. And after she left the stage, Randy came on and recited part of his final lecture that he’d given to his students. He said a ‘final lecture’ is something that professors’ give based on the idea of a made-up assumption: pretend you’re going to die and this is the last speech you’ll ever make. But for Randy, it was true. He has cancer and was diagnosed with three months to live. The speech was dedicated to his kids and brought tears to my eyes... The whole thing was touching, inspiring, and heart warming. You can see it embedded below.
One thing that stood out for me was something he said about his little league coach. His coach was old school and would yell at him all practice, You’re doing it wrong, go back, do it again, you owe me pushups, etc. And after practice one of the assistant coaches came up to Randy and said, “You know the coach rode you pretty hard. That’s a good thing. That means he cares.”
Randy went on to say that if you’re doing a bad job and no one points it out to you that means they’ve given up on you. It was something that stuck with him, and it stuck with me too.
Sometimes we’re afraid to point things out or to criticize a co-worker, writing partner, or friend. With our helpful, womanly nature it’s much easier to let things slide—ignore the bad, and roll with the good. But this isn’t being helpful.
Now, sometimes our team and editors tend to “ride each other pretty hard,” as you’ll often see in our blog posts’ comments. We correct each other on terminology, grammar, spelling, and fact checking. This is only because we care about one another and want to bring out the best. This kind of criticism = love.
Here's the video with Randy Pausch -- check it out if you haven't seen it already!
Welcome to the last Saturday Blog post of October!
I’ve been working on a secret project over the last several months and I’m finally ready to share it with you all. Guess what? As of Thursday afternoon, I am a published author! I can hear your burning question: “Who published it?” Well…that’s the secret part. I published it myself—with the help of Outskirts Press.
Now, like all of you, I’d heard the warnings against self-publishing places like Outskirts. And believe me, I did the research before making my final decision. This particular book project was important to me and I wanted to be a part of the creative process as well as retain my rights to the story. Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with the stress of publishing completely on my own, I chose the middle route to publishing where I was a part of every decision but still had help with such things as distribution or getting an ISBN number.
Here’s a “bare bones” explanation of my process with Outskirts: (1) First you send your manuscript to them for evaluation. The point of this step is to figure out what your needs/wants are and to help you decide on which package is best for what you want to do with your book. My book was to be a children’s picture book so I chose the Pearl package geared specifically to such books.
(2) After you choose your package and either pay the deposit or entire fee, the process begins! This is when you get too choose the layout, color scheme and cover design. You have many designs to choose from or you have the option of hiring someone else to design it for you.
(3) This step wouldn’t be for those without illustrations or pictures but you are paired up with an illustrator. You fill out a description sheet for the illustrator to give them an idea of what you want in your pictures. This step was both challenging and exciting because I had to describe what I envisioned so vividly the illustrator would understand exactly what I wanted. Obviously artists put their own “creative flair” into the work but if you’re able to word things well enough, it works out great!
(4) After illustrations (if you have them) are approved, production starts. This is where they create an “prototype” of your book according to your descriptions and layout choices. For those of us who have illustrations or pictures, you’d fill out an instruction sheet of where you’d like the pictures placed.
(5) This is the most crucial part: editing and proofing. Once the book is put together, you are responsible to look it over and make any required changes. I was lucky because my book is very short so the task wasn’t long at all. I merely had to assure my words and pictures went together well.
(6) After all edits are made and approved, your book goes to the printer and, hopefully, within a week or so, is complete!
I had the most wonderful and positive experience with Outskirts. They worked with me, never once tried to sell me things I didn’t need, were generous with their time, answered all my questions thoroughly and quickly and truly made me feel my project was the treasure I felt it was.
All in all, my project cost me about $1800 in total (I also had a few discounts from email coupons I was sent. Watch for those.) It could have been a lot more expensive if I’d added things on but my book is exactly what I envisioned it to be and more: Yes, it cost me money but I had it to spend so it wasn’t a concern for me. Yes, I realize I may have run the risk of a traditional publisher not wanting it in the future but it’s okay, for now. And yes, I know I’ll have to work a lot of the distribution aspect myself but for this project I wanted to have a hand in that part too.
You see, my book derives from the story I wrote for Chicken Soup For The Soul: Children With Special Needs. It’s about how four-and-a-half year old Alexandra explains to people what Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID) is, what it feels like, and what she goes through so people don’t think she’s “weird.” The book is essentially about Jaimie (her middle name is Alexandra) and is to be used as a reference/educational tool to help teach people about SID and to help SID children explain it to their peers or others they come in contact with. The people at Outskirts knew the purpose of my story and what I wanted to do with it. They were there for me 100% and to them, I am so grateful.
Thank you to Laura, Lora and everyone else—especially my wonderful and talented illustrator--who helped breathe life into my project. With your help, people will come to understand SID children better and see them as the beautiful little people they are.
So, don’t write self-publishers off just because of the warnings you hear. Investigate, ask questions and learn for yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised.
If you don't subscribe to our "Market's Newsletter" then you have no clue what we're talking about. But that's okay... only truly dedicated freelance writers need subscribe!
What is it?
Well, if you've subscribed to our FREE "Market's Newsletter" you'd already know.
How do you subscribe to our Free Market's Newsletter (AKA: Think Green)?
Go to our home page and subscribe or update your subscription in the gray box -- actually, it's at the top of all of our pages. If you're a long-time subscriber, you may have missed this option because we recently added new newsletters in the past few months. And our Think Green! Market's Newsletter is free, but for the truly dedicated we offer an ultimate newsletter for freelancers called PREMIUM GREEN. Here's what it's all about:
Support WOW! and we'll support you!
We at WOW! want to keep providing you with the best content out there for women writers and keep our free publication alive and well for many years to come.
The WOW! online magazine will always continue to be free as long as we exist, and we will continue to provide jobs and freelance gigs for women writers. It's our goal to support the blood, sweat, and tears of your writing efforts.
And we know that even in this day and age there still aren't as many places for women to have their work published -- as our monthly columnist C. Hope Clark observed in her September article. "Other than in the romance arena, men writers outnumber women. Or let's say that published men writers outnumber women."
That's why we continue to strive for the best and create needed markets for women writers. By subscribing to Premium-Green Markets we will guide you through the rough waters and help you get those published clips!
When I first started WOW! I made myself a promise -- that I'd NEVER ask for a donation from any of you ladies. To me, that defeats the purpose of helping women writers, and I've always found those things to be cheesy! I'd rather offer you a valuable product for your hard-earned dollars. So, let me tell you what you'll get when you subscribe to the Premium-Green Markets:
Select Markets Especially for Women Writers!
Pink & Green
This selection of Premium-Green called, "Pink & Green" goes in-depth to bring you the BEST in writer's markets for women.
And we don't just list them, we ask the editors what they want! This way you'll always get up-to-date information of what these editors want to see in their inbox TODAY! This increases your odds in finding a fit for your work, which is our goal. Columns found ONLY in Premium-Green:
In the Trenchesby Chynna Laird
Editor Chynna Laird lives 'in the trenches' -- as a full-time freelancer, she knows what it takes to make a living from her writing. Chynna shares her personal experiences in the world of freelancing: publications she's submitted to, responses to her queries (both acceptance and rejection), and tips that have worked for her. Written in conversational journal-style entries, Chynna lets you step inside her world by sharing her secrets. Grow your freelance career with Chynna!
Tips & Tricksby Angela Mackintosh
Angela loves to write How-tos, and step-by-step articles. If you're familiar with her blog posts or features on WOW!, Angela breaks down complex topics in easy-to-grasp language.
Topics include: How to win over an editor's heart, how to start and maintain a successful website, blogging for bucks, how to set up your business structure for your home-based freelance business, promotion and guerilla marketing, & more!
Get Writing, Mamas!By Chynna Laird
As a mother of three children under the age of five, Chynna takes you through the process of writing around life and what you have to do to make it work for you. And YES you can make a living and be a mommy too!
Topics include: workspace organization, prioritizing, anecdotes about motherhood and writing, inspiration for writing moms, networking, and motivation. This is not to miss!
Interviews with Editors, Publishers, and Freelancers:
Meet Your Mentor
Each issue we'll spotlight a particular subject and ask an expert for their advice to help guide you through the waters of freelancing. You never know, you may meet your mentor or life-coach!
Inter-Activities for Freelancers:
Here you will find interactive exercises to help get you inspired, motivated, and provide feedback. It may be in the form of a quiz, or a worksheet that you can print out and fill in. We urge you to save these to track your writing progress over the year. It's a journal of YOU and your writing career. At the end of the year, we'll ask if you want to submit your wild notes and scribbles to "Project Workbook" -- an ebook compilation. We compile it and send them out to Premium-Green subscribers at the end of the year so you can read through your fellow freelancers notes and be inspired!
Your Questions Answered:
More than you Magic 8-Ball
Submit your question on anything you'd like to know the answer to, and we'll publish it in our Q&A column. Anything goes here. You can ask questions about life, freelancing, writing, editing, or personal issues. We'll answer all of them!
All signs point to yes!
Markets, Markets, and More Markets:
Besides our fabulous columns to guide you through your freelancing career, we bring you a top-notch selection of markets tailored to your tastes.
Pink & Green Markets
Nonfiction: Freelancer's Delight
Contract Jobs: Writer's Wanted
Niche Markets (such as slogans, greeting cards, etc.)
All served up fresh to bring you the Green!
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At the end of the year you'll receive two ebooks:
Fueled by Premium-Green: A compilation of a whole year's worth of the Premium-Green newsletter's columns and markets in ebook form. Plus additional articles and resources for women freelancers not found anywhere else!
Project Workbook: This is all about you! (See the above section under "Workbook") This ebook combines all the worksheets given throughout the year that you filled in. It'll be put together in 'slam book' momento for all subscribers. This tracks your progress and your fellow freelancer's progress all in one fun and inspirational slam ebook!
Specials only for Premium-Green Subscribers:
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I’ll admit that I’ve procrastinated in writing this, my first WOW! blog, as I wondered what I could say as a writer. I began to really get worked up and poured through old blog posts in an effort to make sure I did not duplicate a topic covered once before. (And let me tell you, a lot has been covered!). So, what could I possibly say that hasn’t been said before? I lay in bed last night wondering this and came up with one answer: It’s all been said.
Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh! If it’s all been said, then what on Earth am I going to write about? Have women everywhere come to this realization as I have? What will we do now that the job is done?
Panic started to set in.
“Okay, get a hold of yourself,” I began to mutter. There must be SOMETHING that hasn’t been voiced. There is undoubtedly something that hasn’t been tapped at this point. Think, think, think. And in that moment, the floodgates opened.
No, a golden pen didn’t fall from the sky. No, the lexicon of all lexicons didn’t mysteriously appear next to my MacBook. No, Julia Cameron didn’t show up at my front door to reveal the Zen filled wisdom within morning pages.
I realized that everything I have to say is new. No one anywhere has said exactly what I have in the way that only I can express my thoughts in words. It’s all new. Every single one of us offers a fresh voice to every topic and that is an exciting thought. No ground is off limits; as long as is it new to me, it’s uncharted territory.
Meet Laura Havens--Runner-Up Winner of the Summer Flash Fiction Contest
First of all, Laura, congratulations on being a runner-up in our summer contest! What did you do when you found out? Did you scream? Call/email everyone you know? Do a "Happy Dance?" I was actually extremely excited when I received the email saying that I had made the cut and my little story was off to a Literary Agent in New York. I emailed everyone then...I was just so proud. Then when I received the email saying I was in the top ten, the first thing I did was re-read it 100 times with the goofiest smile on my face. Then I forwarded the email to my four best girlfriends thanking them for their unwavering support. That weekend, whenever I would seem down, my husband would look at me, smile and say "You're a winner!" and I would perk right up.
Your story Stolen Summer Night was a wonderful memoir essay. When I read the piece, I was reminded—as I'm sure others out there can relate—of my own "stolen summer night." What made this particular story one you'd want to write as your favorite summer vacation memory? My story actually isn't a memoir. I'm afraid to say I never had a "stolen summer night." I do, however, have wonderful memories of a cottage right on the water at Dennisport Beach. Friends of my parents owned the cottage so every summer we would spend a week there, until sadly they had to sell it. My main reason for entering this competition was for the challenge of the word count.
Well, see? Your writing was so good you gave the atmosphere of speaking of a special memory. Excellent job! When did you start writing, Laura? My parents will tell you that the first story I ever wrote, and would have given Stephen King a run for his money, was in the second grade. I, on the other hand, didn't start writing until College. It has been an on-again, off-again love affair of mine. After I had my son and thought about his future, and how I want him to be able to do anything his heart desires, I realized I've been spending years not allowing myself that same freedom. I started writing a book I had living inside of me for years. Then I got stuck and was going to give up. Thankfully, I developed a relationship with another writer over in England (Her name is Amanda Morgan and you can check out her work at www.editred.com/amandamorgan) and she has really helped me stay on track and challenge myself.
First, I understand how having children can inspire you to go on with your dreams. And how fabulous you found another writer to help keep you going. You’re obviously inspired by your son; but what else inspires you, Laura? What part of your soul do you tap into to draw story ideas from? I honestly don't know how to answer this question. I know that stories will come when they are ready to and I try not to worry too much about inspiration. I have an incredible memory so I just try to observe as much of the world around me and store things inside until they manifest themselves. I think most of my stories come from daydreams or fantasies that I have.
Isn’t it funny how something you observe—even in passing—can turn into a great story idea? It sounds like you have terrific sources to tap into. Do you have any publishing credits you’d like to brag about? This is my first publication; it is also the first contest I have ever entered. Needless to say, I'm thrilled!
Well, we’re thrilled to be your first publishing note. Your list of favorite authors is very impressive. Are these your mentors for writing your short story collection? What sorts of stories will this collection include? I adore Iris Murdoch because she challenges me as a reader. I admire her (and any authors’) ability to know her characters so completely. Gregory Maguire is an inspiration because he takes characters we have known forever and says, "No, you don't know them!" Jane Austen is just a beautiful story teller and I love her dialogue. The short story collection I have in mind would be called Life: In 500 words or less. I would like to compile at least 100 short stories that are only 500 words and similar in style to Stolen Summer Night.
What a fabulous idea! I admired all of our entrants for attempting our prompt. It’s hard to write a complete story with a small word count maximum. Do you have any words of wisdom for future contestants? Jump in! The water's fine! The women of WOW-womenonwriting.com are wonderful!
As we close our interview, Laura, do you have any writing in the works we should watch out for, aside from your short-story collection? At the moment I am only enrolled in one other Flash Fiction contest on www.whimsplace.com . Haven't heard anything yet so cross your fingers for me! For the time being, I'll be working on accepting the idea that I can actually call myself a published author.
We’ll definitely keep our fingers crossed for you, Laura. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and please come back to let us know how your writing career is going.
So, what are you waiting for? Enter our Fall Nonfiction Essay contest now! You never know…maybe the next person we interview as a winner could be you.
Laura Havens lives in South Eastern Massachusetts with her Husband and young son. When she is not writing, she works full-time as an Executive Assistant. Her favorite authors include Jane Austen, Iris Murdoch, Audrey Niffeneger, and Gregory Maguire. Please feel free to email her at: email@example.com
We rely upon our noses every day, and sometimes it’s for survival. Remember all the guys who have approached you that looked so attractive, until you smelled them?
According to Professor Nosetradamus at the Sense of Smell Institute, “Everyone has his or her own unique odor-identity or smell fingerprint.” This is great news for writers!
Have you ever relied upon your nose for story inspiration? Anything is possible, right?
We know that ambient scents play a large role in our society; they influence purchases, and they impact our impressions on places, people, events, or objects. But ambient scents also influence our memories, and this is where we should focus our noses when we need a little creative boost.
Have you ever walked into a shop, boutique, restaurant, house, or any place where you suddenly felt swept away by an odor? It could have been pleasing or not, powerful or subtle, but it should’ve had an impact on you, and not just your sense of smell. If you know what I’m talking about, then you might guess where I’m going.
Ambient scents can give rise to memories of myriad subjects--people, places, objects, foods, actions, or maybe something else. Of course, this affect can give rise to emotions or actions, too. For one, I’ve heard certain scents play a large role in purchasing power. I can’t say I’ve ever bought anything beyond food based on scent alone, but I’ve read that it happens. Apparently, some people choose their cars based on the interior’s aroma. Most people, however, don’t have the money to please their noses. But we know it’s true for some.
My husband and I sold three houses in the last eleven years. Before we’d shown our homes to prospective buyers, I’d put a few drops of vanilla on a heated stove burner, to fill the air with a fresh scent. This doesn’t mean that our houses had smelled dirty beforehand; but the vanilla added an impression to the air. We were told this helped ease buyers into a house much more than the smell of cleansers and bleach.
Everyone has smelled something familiar. Sometimes scents can give rise to déjà vu.
If I smell an ointment similar to an old one known as Ben-Gay, I immediately think of my grandmother in her final years. I don’t know if that particular product is still on the market, but I need only smell a similar one to think of my past. If, however, I smell poppy seed pastries or a yeast-based dough rising, I think of my grandmother when she was much younger.
I think we all have those experiences from various places, and maybe foods are the easiest ones. But they certainly aren’t the only ones. Here are a few off the top of my mind: roasted Hatch green chiles, Starbucks coffee beans, poppy-seed pastries, Cinnabon cinnamon buns, lilac blossoms, mold, pine trees, animal petting zoos, cow farms, gasoline fumes, cigarette smoke, cigars, pipes, onion fields, and the list goes on to infinite possibilities.
Just the other day, I couldn’t think of an idea for a contest. I let it sit, empty on the screen and in my mind. But the emptiness went away when I smelled curry powder. The curry scent wafted up my nose and tickled my memory of an event with a friend from years ago. That was all I needed to start typing up the story.
Professor Nosetradamus also tells us that “The average human being is able to recognize approximately 10,000 different odors.”
So, the next time you find yourself in story limbo, look to your nose pool for a scented muse! Technically, you could have about 10,000 story possibilities in there!
When we put up the new contest in September some of our regular flash fiction contestants scratched their heads and wrote us. "Wow, that is a departure," one of our previous winners wrote. "It's going to take a lot of thought on my part, if I end up entering at all. What do I write about?"
As I responded to one of these emails I remembered a story of how something strange changed my life. Off the top of my head, I wrote:
I just remembered something that brought me good luck once -- I was in Santa Monica with some girlfriends, and they kept saying, "Oh, we gotta go see this psychic, she's unbelievably accurate." Then they would snicker. O-k-a-y... I thought, sounds kinda fun, but I'm not shelling out a bunch of money I don't have to go see a psychic!
They took me to the pier and led me inside a room that had a carousel in the middle, and pushed up against the wall in the corner was this gaudy old mechanical fortune teller. Of course they burst out laughing, and I was just glad they weren't taking me to see a real psychic. So we all put in a dollar fifty, and the creepy lady moved her fingers over a crystal ball until the machine spit out a thick card.
The picture on the front of the card had a woman falling and screaming. I walked away to read it, fearing that it would say something bad. At the time I was not doing so hot with my finances to put it mildly. I was broke, in debt, jobless, and going nowhere fast. I feared that the card would predict another grim tale to add to my list. But to my surprise, the card basically said that the troubles I've been having with my finances would soon be over.
So I tucked the card away in my purse and carried it with me wherever I went, and a week later, I landed a contract for my graphic design business that paid a hundred grand a year.
Of course after that I called up all my friends and we celebrated!
I have no idea if the card really worked or not, but it just seemed like too much of a coincidence to dismiss.
When I think about all the experiences that have happened in my life, they all can be attributed to some form of luck, serendipity, or karma. Events happen in a series, connections lead from one experience to the other. If you step back for a moment and examine the most important times in your life... what event, action, or coincidence led up to that point?
I met my husband when my ex-boyfriend and I moved into an art studio four doors down from his. If I hadn't moved in and broken up with my ex soon thereafter, I probably wouldn't have met my hubby. That move to the studio put me in close proximity, and even before that, I was forced to move out from the apartment I lived, and so on and so on.
An easy way to find your "lucky you" moment is to write a list of monumental events in your life. Take a look at that list and hit rewind. What event started that ball rolling?
In my story with the mechanical fortune teller, I could've just said, that was a year I started making a lot of money because I got this really great contract gig -- but that wouldn't have made for a good story. By retracing your steps and the series of events that led up to that point, you will be able to find your "lucky you" moment... and you may even be lucky enough to win our essay contest!
So to get started, can you write a list of some major events in your life? Please share them here and we'll encourage each other!
When I started my degree program, I took several introductory Psychology courses. Some of the best material I studied was in Social Psychology focusing on deviance. What’s fascinating is someone who’s considered a “deviant” is merely a person who doesn’t conform to the norms of their society. This means a person sporting a nose ring or the wrong colored shirt can be considered deviant just because they’re different from the rest of their culture.
A person is also considered to be deviant who may see a subject from a unique perspective and isn't afraid to talk about it. Galileo, Christopher Columbus and, even, Albert Einstein were ostracized for their beliefs and views. But not one of them was itimidated to speak their mind nor cared what people thought as their views needed to be discussed (and thank goodness such people were brave enough to do so!)
In the writing arena, subjects labeled as “taboo” are considered controversial, rather than deviant. But in either case, what’s considered controversial greatly depends on an individual’s perspective. For example, there are subjects which are considered to be controversial by the very nature of the emotions they emit, such as abortion or religion. Others are considered controversial because they are topics no one talks about but should, such as child abuse, mental illness or rape.
In my opinion, a little controversy—getting people talking and debating—isn’t such a bad thing. And as writers, we should be brave enough to tackle some of those subjects occasionally. Even I’ve dabbled on the deviant side of the writing tablet.
I wrote memoirs about life with my Mom. On the outside my mother was beautiful, intelligent and one of the most talented people I’ve ever known—an accomplished musician, artist, poet, singer…the list is endless. Inside my mother fought an unseen assailant that stole her sanity from us on a daily basis: bipolar. Now, I didn’t want my memoirs to be a “Mommie Dearest” book. I wanted to tell my story while still respecting the fact that my mother was still a person—a mother, a sister, a daughter and a friend to so many. And I did this while still bringing important subjects under the spotlight (child abuse and neglect, alcoholism, mental illness, and violence to women) requiring much needed acknowledgement and awareness. The way I see it, through awareness comes understanding and that’s what our gift of writing can accomplish.
So, don’t be afraid to lean to the controversial side of things. Some topics need to be explored and there are many readers out there who depend on our words to help draw out the discussion. Why not be brave enough to bring something out into the open for discussion? You never know—you may even help someone.
What subjects can you think of that need more attention? What topics can you put up on the platform and be brave enough to write about? I’d love to hear what you think, what your passionate about and what we should be writing about more often.
In the illustrious words of my writing mentor: “There’s nothing wrong with being a bit controversial once in awhile. It gets you noticed and it can make people think.”
We want to share a writer’s fantastic news! Danette Haworth just sold her middle grade novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning. We’re very excited for her!
Here's the blurb from PM:
“Danette Haworth's debut VIOLET RAINES ALMOST GOT STRUCK BY LIGHTNING, about a vivacious eleven-year-old whose life changes drastically when a new girl moves to her backwoods Florida town, to Stacy Cantor at Walker, on an exclusive submission, for publication in Fall 2008, by Ted Malawer at Firebrand Literary.”
Isn’t that “crazy, delirious, euphoric?” These words come from Danette’s own blog. To check out her excitement, click here.
WOW! Women On Writing Named as a Finalist in the 4th Annual Stevie® Awards for Women in Business
Stevie Award Winners to Be Announced in Las Vegas on November 12
Placentia, CA – October 17, 2007 – WOW! Women On Writing was named a Finalist in the Website of the Year category in the 4th Annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business, presented by Infiniti.
The Stevie Awards for Women in Business honor women executives, entrepreneurs, and the companies they run – worldwide. The Stevie Awards have been hailed as “the business world’s own Oscars.” (New York Post, April 27, 2005).
Nicknamed the Stevies for the Greek word “crowned,” winners will be announced during a gala event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Monday, November 12. Nominated women executives and entrepreneurs from the U.S. and several other countries are expected to attend.
More than 800 entries were submitted for consideration in more than 40 categories, including Best Executive, Best Entrepreneur, and Best Community Involvement Program. WOW! Women On Writing is a Finalist in the Website of the Year category.
This is a significant achievement for which finalists are to be applauded. This means that independent judges agreed that WOW! Women On Writing is worthy of international recognition, and has won at least a Certificate of Finalist Recognition, and possibly a Stevie Award trophy. WOW! CEO and Founder, Angela Mackintosh, states, “We are honored to be in the company of esteemed women who are making a difference in business. Heartfelt congratulations go out to all the finalists, and to the Stevie Awards for recognizing women and their achievements.”
Finalists were chosen by business professionals worldwide during preliminary judging. Members of the Awards' Board of Distinguished Judges & Advisors and their staffs select Stevie Award winners from among the Finalists during final judging.
“Being named a Finalist in The Stevie Awards for Women in Business is an important achievement,” said Michael Gallagher, president of the Stevie Awards. “It means that independent business executives have agreed that the nominee is worthy of recognition. We congratulate all of the Finalists on their achievement and wish them well in the competition.”
Angela Mackintosh adds, “To be a finalist in the Stevie Awards is already an award in itself--not only for our website, but for our hardworking and dedicated staff of talented women writers. It’s also an award for our readers and community who make our efforts worthwhile and keep us striving for the best. Ladies, take a bow! We’re thrilled and honored to be a finalist for such a prestigious award.”
Details about The Stevie Awards for Women in Business and the list of Finalists in all categories are available at www.stevieawards.com/women.
About WOW! Women On Writing: WOW! Women On Writing is a global magazine that promotes the communication between women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers, and readers. WOW!’s concept is unique, as it fills in the missing gap between writing websites and women's magazines. WOW! is dedicated to raising the overall standards within the writing community, and devoting an active profile within writing industry associations, organizations, and websites.
About the Stevie Awards: Stevie Awards are conferred in four programs: The American Business Awards, The International Business Awards, The Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and the Selling Power Sales Excellence Awards. Honoring companies of all types and sizes and the people behind them, the Stevies recognize outstanding performances in the workplace worldwide. Learn more about The Stevie Awards at www.stevieawards.com.
Infiniti is the presenting sponsor of The 2007 Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Supporting sponsor is JetBlue. Media sponsor is Pink magazine. The Business TalkRadio Network will broadcast the ceremonies live nationwide.
About Infiniti: Infiniti offers a full-line of luxury performance automobiles, including the G Coupe and Sedan, the M luxury performance sedan, FX premium crossover SUV, the QX full-size luxury SUV, and the upcoming EX luxury crossover inspired by coupe design. More information about Infiniti and its Total Ownership Experience can be found at www.Infiniti.com.
WOW! Women On Writing Angela Mackintosh, CEO and Founder 740 S. Van Buren St. Ste, D Placentia, CA 92780 (714) 632-8869 firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently a friend of mine went out on an important business trip to New York. As he and his partner were at Kinkos copying a presentation for their big meeting, they happened to glance at the trash bin next to the copier. On top of a pile of crumpled documents was a pristine, unmarred business plan. My friend picked it up and couldn’t believe his eyes. The plan was similar to the one they were intending to write! He quickly snatched it and concealed it in his messenger bag.
A few days later he told me the story. The meeting went spectacular, everything was gangbusters, and finding that business plan was strange... it was serendipity. He wanted to do something similar and use the business plan as a template. And since he never took typing (I call him ‘Sam Peck-n-paw’), I agreed to retype the document for him. I couldn’t bear to see him peck away for days when I could do it in an hour.
As I sat at my keyboard typing, I was reminded of the late author Hunter S. Thompson. This visionary and founder of “Gonzo Journalism” spent his early years typing out the complete works of Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. He wanted to know what it was like to write a masterpiece. To feel the voice and rhythm of words from an author he admired. And typing out their novels was the closest thing to it.
I have to admit, it’s amazing. Even though I was simply typing out a random business plan from a complete stranger found in a stinky trash can, I discovered that typing someone else’s words gives you a whole new perspective and understanding. It’s not like reading. It’s completely different. While typing, you hear tone, voice, beat and clarity of thought. You pick up on much more than you would on a quick read-through. You use a multitude of senses.
After I typed the document for my friend, I took a little time and typed the first chapters of my favorite books. For a moment, you can feel exactly what that person is feeling, the pulse of their words, and the bu-dum, bu-dum, heartbeat of their word-song.
If you haven’t tried it before, here’s your challenge:
Pick out an author you admire and type their first chapter.
What do you feel?
Did you discover something different than when you read it?
How did the words feel at the tips of your fingers? Did you hear their voice?
It's a fun exercise and probably the closest you can get to an author's mind. Hunter S. would be proud.
WOW: Alicia, kudos to you for taking 1st Place in our Summer 2007 Contest. How did you feel when you learned? Did you see it online first, or did someone tell you they saw it first?
Alicia: I was incredibly excited when I found out I placed first in the WOW summer contest. I was on the phone with my mother when I checked the website and I nearly screamed in her ear. Nothing compares to scrolling down under the Summer Flash Fiction contest headline and seeing my picture under the 1st Place! Of course, I sent her the link to the contest immediately, so that she could read it for herself.
WOW: So, you shared your success instantly! Now, please tell us what encouraged you to write “Thanks for the Memories." Is there a story behind the story?
Alicia: Strangely, when I first saw the prompt, I immediately thought of the day my family rented a pontoon boat when I was about twelve. I have no idea why that was the first thing that popped into my head, but as soon as it did I could see the possibilities for humor. Our day on the water was probably a little crazier in some ways since I had four siblings younger than myself, but I don’t think any of the story incidents took place. I’ll get back to you on that after I check with my mom. . . .
WOW: That’s fine, either way. You did a fine job creating the incidents. In your bio you said you’ve been bit by the contest bug. Could you elaborate? Also, could you share what makes contests so beneficial for writers?
Alicia: A few years ago I was at a low point trying to get anything published. In the early to mid 80’s I had published some children’s short stories in several magazines, such as Discoveries, Counselor, and Pockets. I even made one sale to Highlights for Children, which was very exciting. Then, I got busy raising my kids and working and didn’t get back to writing until the late 90’s. At that time I discovered many markets had either dried up or accepted less fiction, and I turned to writing young adult mystery books. I did it partly to prove that I could write a longer work, and I was pleased with the results. However, when I tried to interest a publisher, I only managed to get a few nibbles, but no offers.
That’s when I read an article in Writer’s Digest about trying out contests to give a boost to your ego. At first I doubted that would work because if I entered contests and never won, then I’d feel even worse! But I decided to take a chance and ended up entering my first adult short story contest for the Taproot Literary Review and a children’s story for Children’s Writer. I continued writing and sending out to other contests, and then within two weeks in May I was amazed to find out that I had placed second in the Taproot contest and first in the Children’s Writer contest. Since then I have gone on to win several other contests and, honestly, the excitement of winning never diminishes. I believe that the contest categories and deadlines help to give the writer a focus, allowing the mind to open and creativity to flow, all within a limited time frame.
WOW: I agree. Let’s move into your other written works. You’ve written three young adult mystery books, which are in search of a publisher. Our summer Guest Judge, Jennifer DeChiara, is a literary agent. We hope you plan to make contact with her. Alicia: I noticed Jennifer DeChiara’s name immediately when I saw she was a guest judge because I had just recently printed out some information on her. It said her agency specialized in children’s literature and that’s what caught my interest. Since I’m thrilled that she was the judge for this contest, I definitely plan on contacting her very soon.
My young adult mysteries grew out of my need to prove I could write a book-length manuscript and my love of mysteries. I attended a writer’s group for several years where I received encouragement in writing a short series of teen novels. I used the seasons and began with Seagull Island Summer with the main character, Leah Wavering, a 15-year-old sent to live with her aunt for the summer while her parents traveled Europe on a photoshoot. Leah’s determined to hate everything because she wanted to stay home and enjoy the summer with her friends. Before she knows it, she’s found a new friend, is involved against her will with a young man who’s always underfoot, and entangled in a surprising number of mysterious incidents. By the book’s end, Leah had not only grown up a little, but used her love of photography to help solve a murder and stop the drug ring that was using the island.
My second book, All-for-One Autumn, has Leah and her friend, Ginny, working at a camp in the mountains for two weeks teaching inner city kids. Leah finds herself challenged because now she has to guide kids not much younger than herself and somehow form her group into a united team. Problems arise when one girl’s brother gets into trouble and hangs around the camp trying to hide. As danger creeps ever closer, Leah has to keep her head and again use her photography skills to bring a killer to justice.
In the third book in the series, Winter Whispers, Leah and her friends find themselves at the Victorian Inn and Playhouse during a snowstorm. Not only is the inn populated with an odd group of characters, but the play is dogged by a series of accidents. This time, not only does Leah have to save herself from a murderer, but she also has to free a young woman who was accused of murder and suicide over a hundred years ago.
WOW: Leah’s world sounds exciting in all three books. Congratulations on finishing three! What about other books you enjoy? Could you recommend authors who encourage you to write?
Alicia: Since I’m a mystery writer who loves history, some of my favorite writers are Anne Perry, especially the Thomas Pitt and Monk books, Ellis Peters, her Cadfael series, Elizabeth Peters, her Amelia Peabody series, and a recent writer I’ve discovered, Lauren Belfer. They all provide excellent blueprints on how to write a mystery, build suspense, draw interesting characters and capture a reader’s imagination. I also love the Alfred Hitchcock idea of the surprise endings, so I occasionally read the Alfred Hitchcock Magazine and recommend anthologies such as the World’s Finest Mystery & Crime Stories, published annually, which includes mystery and suspense short stories from around the world.
WOW: Thanks for recommendations. I’m sure our mystery lovers will check them out, if they haven’t already. Getting back to your writing careers, do you have any other long-term goals?
Alicia: My ultimate goal is still to publish a book, possibly one of my young adult mysteries or maybe even an anthology of all the mystery or ghost stories I’ve written so far. One of my favorite stories I’ve published is “Twin Paradox,” a ghost story that won first place in a Writers’ Journal contest last year. I’ve also considered publishing a nonfiction book about the bed and breakfasts my husband and I have stayed in the past few years. Each one of them has a unique background, description, and location. Instead of staying at your typical bland two-bed with dresser, table and chairs, Holiday Inn room, why not set out on a new and exciting adventure every time you travel?
WOW: The B & B’s sound like they have stories within stories, too. I bet there would be a few mysteries among them, too. In terms of writing as a craft, which books do you find the most helpful?
Alicia: For children’s writing, one of the best helps for markets, ideas, and careers is the Children’s Writer Guide, published yearly. It also includes information on conferences and contests. Some of the other books I have on my shelves are 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias; Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America, edited by Sue Grafton; Writing to Sell by Scott Meredith; and The Art of Compelling Fiction (How to Write a Page-Turner) by Christopher T. Leland.
WOW: That book about plots sounds like a big help for the upcoming NaNo Competition! Thanks for sharing your favorites. Before we go, could you end on a little wisdom for our readers?
Alicia: I guess it all boils down to the fact that a writer writes because she has to. It’s there inside ready to boil up at a moment’s notice. I sometimes compare it to giving birth--you might want to ignore it or pretend the need’s not there or even hope it will go away, but just like that baby in the womb, eventually it’s got to come out.
I was once asked in a writer’s group, what was the one word that described my writing? After I thought a moment, I came up with liberating. Writing gives me the freedom to put down my deepest thoughts, or entertain with humor, or frighten with ghost tales, or any other possibility that enters my mind. It’s exhilarating when it all comes together, and characters speak to me or plot points appear out of some deep recesses of my mind. I don’t even mind editing myself and paring down to word counts because it gives me a thrill when I know I’ve strengthened and honed my story to the best that it can be. As commercial wisdom proclaims--Just do it!
WOW: You’ve been an absolute inspiration, Alicia! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips.
If you haven’t read Alicia’s top entry, go here. Do you have any feedback for Alicia? Feel free to write to her at: email@example.com. Thanks!
Many of my friends, men and women of all ages, lamented at one time or another, “I wish I’d trusted my intuition. If I had, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.” It’s fascinating to think of the people who related these comments, their respective situations, and their matching conclusions. Why didn’t they listen to that “sixth sense” at the time of their brewing conflicts and situations?
What is intuition? Intuition involves insight that develops independent of conscious reasoning; yet, it means more than following one’s instincts alone. Intuition senses the right direction for a person to follow based on past experiences and it alludes to the future. Intuition is context-based. It involves spontaneity, but not reckless leaps into the unknown. It’s as if it involves a different kind of focus and another way to perceive.
How do writers and others view intuition? Jane Yolen wrote on her website journal, For Writers, “Someone online asked me how to use intuition. Well, intuition works best when you remember that "tuition" is part of it. You need to have paid ahead of time (i.e. done your prep work) so as to prepare the ground for intuition.”
Albert Einstein stated, “There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.”
Carl Jung wrote that “Intuition (is) perception via the unconscious.”
I could have chosen a thousand more quotes. We’ve read countless definitions, quotations, and thoughts on intuition, yet they all allude to an alternate way to approach and perceive different aspects of life, people, concepts, etc.
Hindrances to intuition Technology continues to inspire us to do more and more in our jobs, careers, avocations, and our daily lives. We’re surrounded by so many devices that we’re constantly working like robots to get everything organized in such a way that we have even more time to relax. But we don’t relax. We often use the time to accomplish even more. Our culture is moving into a strange robotic wave where we become almost obsessed with our goals and work to the point of exhaustion. How many people do you know who are “burned out” in their current jobs or roles?
Cultivating strong intuition Intuition isn’t something we’re either born with or not; it’s a sense that we can feed and practice using if we’re interested in learning how. Of course, I’m not an expert. I never took psychology courses in college. I just observe people, events, and my own mistakes and strong suits, like many writers.
I notice that my best fictional works come from tapping into my intuitive sources, rather than sitting down, outlining, or organizing my thoughts ahead of time. Research articles and fact-based pieces require order up front, but not fiction. If we allow our subconscious minds the freedom, we can manage to work out diverse problems in our sleep or during the day. This doesn’t have to apply to fiction.
Have you ever had a problem that troubled you to no end, and yet the solution came only after you let it “rest” for a while in the back of your mind? It doesn’t matter whether you slept or went onto “other” activities and finally released the problem from your conscious mind.
Intuition serves as a guide in many parts of life, including writing. I’d love to hear from others writers on this subject. I’ve read that some writers like to take walks in nature, surround themselves with animals, and escape technology to get in touch with their intuitive side. This sounds like a logical way to get back to that sixth sense. Doesn’t it?
Meditation, I’ve read, is another way to feed one’s intuitive nature.
How often has intuition played a role in your first impression of a person upon first meeting? Was your intuition correct? How does intuition play a role in your writing? Do you let it play a role? Or do you prefer to outline, arrange, and plan out all writing works?
This isn’t my most organized blog post, and I’m not sure I’ve addressed my questions clearly. I just really want to know what others think about intuition. Thanks!
I was a bit nervous as it was my first experience with self-promotion. I worried no one would show up and if they did I wondered whether anyone would even be interested in our little story. But once I entered the massive metal doors and walked down a narrow aisle past rows upon rows of books, I spotted a tiny table. I smiled to myself as I got closer and saw a neatly piled tower of my book--my book--with a sign next to it that read, "Author Signing: Come and meet local author Chynna T. Laird and discover her wonderful story inChicken Soup For The Soul: Children With Special Needs."
I stood and gawked at the small sign. "Local Author." "Author Signing." Oh my goodness...that's me! My nerves were gone and I was ready to take on the mission of getting that book into as many hands as I could.
With Jaimie by my side--who eagerly wanted to tell people about "the Jaimie book"--I waited for people to flock to our table. I have to tell you all, it's a much different experience than you'd think. Because of the subject matter of the book, people seemed a bit...uncomfortable to approach us. I guess I forgot that because I deal with a special needs child every day, other people may not have the same comfort level with the topic as I did. Somehow I had to help others feel less awkward about coming up to us and know any questions were welcomed. Then it happened--our first "customer."
It was a Mom of a child with ADHD who said she wanted to talk to me but wasn't sure how to approach me to ask her questions. I touched her hand and said, "Ask me anything you want. That's why I'm here."
My words must have eased her because we talked for about ten minutes about everything from how long it took each of us to get someone to listen to us ("My child is not 'just spirited'; something is wrong") to how difficult it is to find appropriate treatment for our children to people misunderstanding our children. You see, both SID and ADHD are disorders that aren't obvious on the outside--you can't see it on their tiny faces or see it on their bodies. To others, our children may seem like they simply have a major behaviour problem. She broke into tears because she had a person to listen to her, to relate to her feelings and how hard it can be to raise a child with special needs. Not only did she buy a book, we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses.
Another woman came right over to me and shook my hand.
"Thank you," she choked. "Thank you for helping us to see these children as children and not just for their disorders or illnesses."
Jaimie had fans of her own, which was so touching. One woman even asked if Jaimie was the one doing the signing! Of course, she couldn't respond to them. She absorbed herself in books and did her deep breathing to calm herself against the clicking heels on the wooden floor, the flourescent lights above us and the overpowering coffee smells snaking around our table. She did well. I was so proud.
But the most touching moment for me was as I packed up after my signing. One of the staff brought a lovely woman over to me--who happened to have autism spectrum--who wanted to talk to me before I left. The first thing that impressed me was that she didn't want to talk to me in front of Jaimie because she understood such children, "probably get talked about enough as though they aren't even there."
The staff member introduced us with tears in her eyes as the woman extended her hand out to me. I placed my hand in hers and she said:
"Thank you. Your story touched me in so many ways. How brave you are to come out and talk about your amazing daughter. I watched you with her--you don't treat her like a 'special needs child'; you treat her like a child and that's what you did in her story. I just had to tell you...thank you...and tell you that your daughter is an amazing little girl. I know she probably won't talk to me but please, please tell her for me, okay? Tell her I think she's an amazing person and she's my hero."
I squeezed the woman's hand and told her how much her words meant to both of us.
That experience reminded me why I write. It's not just for the money (when you get it), the recognition or even "fans" like my new friend, the lovely staff at Indigo or that wonderful woman who talked to me before I left. It's for the feeling of knowing one person--even if it is one person--is touched in some way by something I've written.
It also reminded me the true meaning of the following phrase: "A person's a person, no matter how small."
Thank you for anyone who came today and thank you for my Jaimie. Her and her beautiful mind.
The answer may seem simple: of course, it's thought! But when the first word is comprehended, the question becomes more complex. Linguist Noam Chomsky says that language generates its own structure and therefore, thought.
When sitting down to write something, whether it's an article, e-mail, blog post etc. do you just type away and come to your own conclusions as you type? Or do you think about what you're going to write first, then figure out the best plan of attack?
When writing for, say, blogs, business, or even fiction, it's good to ask yourself a few questions before you dive right in. Today I'm going to talk about writing for business, specifically business letters (emails) and how these points relate to that subject. Now, business can be almost anything: an email to a co-worker, publication, or even a comment on a blog post--but remember, you can use these basic points for anything you write.
What is your purpose?
Your answer may be simple: to write an email to a client, or to schedule a meeting. Yet, even with these simple intentions, you still have to think about what you want to get across to the reader.
Yesterday I was replying to an email, and as I was typing I realized that I was being way too wordy. I looked back at what I wrote before I hit the send button and thought, do they really need to know all that? There were two paragraphs that contained important information, but also a lot of fluff in between. I tend to be too chatty when emailing, which is fine for a friend, but for a first-meeting business email, it was a little overwhelming. I took the two points I needed from the paragraphs and crafted them into one sentence--then ditched the rest. Just because I like to be conversational, doesn't mean other people will enjoy my ramblings!
So ask yourself: Can I get my point across in one simple declarative sentence?
Who are you writing to?
Think of your readers first, instead of thinking of yourself.
If the reader is sympathetic to your message, first appeal to their emotions, then to their logical thinking (feelings first; facts follow)
If the reader already doesn't want to read what you have to say, appeal to their logical thinking, then to their emotions (facts first; feelings follow).
If the reader doesn't care one way or the other about what they're about to read (for instance, a sales letter, a query to an editor or agent etc.) then appeal to their interests, and write something dynamic to capture their attention.
If they don't know you, emphasize your credentials and the things that you and your reader have in common.
What's your message?
There are many ways to structure your message, and you should think about the most effective way to present the material. Are you describing a set of steps to get a task done, or presenting a list of priorities? Then you'd need to structure your message in chronological order.
What about medium?
Would it be better to make a phone call, or meet in person? Snail mail or email? Do you need to show presentation materials or other things to illustrate a point?
Other important questions to ask yourself:
What is the best way to engage your readers, hold their attention, and influence their thinking or behavior?
How can you persuade them to accept your point of view or take action?
Think first, then write:
Think through your purpose.
Write for your audience.
Choose the most effective material for your purpose.
Remember, these are very basic guidelines, and they certainly don't include everything, but as long as you question yourself before you write, your writing will become tighter, precise, and your vision clear.
PS. I still didn't answer the question of the chicken or the egg! But I guess it all depends on your thought process. ;-)
Marina Kuperman has been living in Costa Rica for almost 5 years. After visiting the Playa Grande's Leatherback Turtle National Marine Park and seeing this critically endangered animal, she became so moved that she not only wrote the book Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat ,but also founded the online community www.turtlefeetsurfersbeat.com for kids, teens, and their parents to take action in a fun way to help marine preservation.
WOW: Thanks for stopping by, Marina. What is Turtle Feet, Surfer's Beat about?
My book revolves around a typical suburban teen girl, Penelope, from the States who is forced to go to Costa Rica with her parents for her father's job assignment. Involuntarily, her parents sign up Penelope to spend two weeks at the Leatherback turtle biological station (for 'her own good'). Penelope obviously isn't pleased, but forgives the horrid accommodations and the neverending bug brigade as she sees the turtle and instantly pledges to do all she can to help it from extinction. But hang ten, dudes! Penelope is about to get help. One lonely night, as she's patrolling the beach for turtle poachers, she stumbles and falls directly into the arms of the local surf champ. Together they dive into the world of surfing and marine preservation.
WOW: A good read with a message! You're website www.turtlefeetsurfersbeat.com is more directed at a community setting rather than focusing directly on the book, why is that?
I figure that a good read helps to get us all hyped-up to take action and make a difference, especially if it's for a good cause. And that's exactly what my book intends to do, since we are all in the know about the conditions of our oceans, and really want to do something to start making a difference. Plus, we also know that everything is so much more fun to do when you're having a blast at it with friends. So, that's exactly what www.turtlefeetsurfersbeat.com it is all about.
It's not your typical site of more information thrown at you, but rather a way to get involved and join forces with your favorite surfers, musicians, artists, conservationists, and other cool people already taking action.
WOW: Thank you, Marina, for sharing a little about your book and your site here today, and best wishes to you.
Thank you for having me as a guest and I look forward to everyone visiting our community and joining in the fun!
Women's Media & PR Summit in 1 week - Time to Register (WWPS)
Announcing the Women’s Media Summit – The Public Relations and Media Marketing eConference for Women taking place October 17-19 & 24.
The WECAI NETWORK™ is excited to present this four + day webinar/teleconference Event to “Help Women Do Business On and Off the Web.” Here is your chance to attend the Virtual event (online via a web conference room or via a teleconference bridge line) that is both educational and inspirational. Bringing together experts in newspapers, magazines, television, radio and internet media, the Women’s Media Summit offers business owners and professionals the opportunity to meet the people who can make a difference in their businesses and careers.
The media and public relations experts include: • Raleigh Pinskey, Promote Yourself Now & The Raleigh Group • Paul Hartunian, The Publicity Junkie • Annie Jennings of Annie Jennings PR • Ponn Sabra • And a dozen other experts!
Session topics include:
• How to Get a Million Dollars in Free Publicity • How Blogging Can Help You Get Media Attention • How to be a Heat-seeking Media Magnet – 101 Ways to Promote Yourself! • “How to create web-optimized media releases - Write for the spiders and the media will take notice!” • “The Inside Scoop on Getting on Radio” • Developing Your Media Platform Using a Storyboard • PR Strategies to Become a Smash Hit Business Success • The World of RADIO – Working with the media to Make it Work for Your Success • ALL this and MORE!
When you register for the Women’s Media Summit you will receive more than a dozen resources including “Get Media Savvy – The Ultimate eGuide to Promote Your Products, Services and Ideas to the World, as well as a workbook complete with interview questions, outlines, forms and other valuable information to help you capitalize on the information gleaned from this event… and more! And you can participate in an exclusive mastermind group after the summit – this means more great speakers (from Entrepreneur Magazine, SBTV and BlentIt of YouTube fame among others) and inspiration to help you get your business noticed!
Check out our Schedule, Lineup of Speakers and Session Descriptions for more information.
Heidi Richards, Founder & CEO - The WECAI Network™ - www.wecai.org Join us for the Women’s Media Summit, October 17, 18, 19 & 24th – The Small Business Public Relations & Media Marketing Event – www.womensmediasummit.com
Following a previous blog post, Hung Up on MS Word’s Tools? You’re not Alone!, a blog reader pointed out: “But as much as it is preached that you should avoid passive tense, there are times when it serves a purpose.” That’s a good point, and we know this is true. As writers we struggle to string words together into carefully designed sentences to make the biggest impact. It all depends on our intended meaning in any given context.
Microsoft Word and other grammar checkers “accuse” us of poor writing habits when we write in passive voice. But software programs can’t make distinctions between our intended meanings and our sentences constructions. Writers alone decide the right places to use passive or active voice. Our jobs just aren’t easy!
We know that passive voice tells us what is done to the subject; active voice tells us who’s doing what. Naturally, passive sentences use more words than their active counterparts. In certain contexts, passive sentences fail to emphasize or name the actor in the sentence. For example, it’s the preferred construction in many political crises to avoid naming the wrongdoer. How often has the public read statements like: “Mistakes were made.” Who made the mistakes and what were they? Was it President Bush? What did he do this time?
In college writing classes, students learn to avoid passive voice. I used to teach that passive voice subverts normal word order and bogs down the writing. That sounds negative, but it had no place in academic essays and research papers; it tended to fall under the category of “padding” the paper until students could reach the right word count range or paper length. It was a general requirement course, and not too many students thrived in it.
Of course, we know that passive voice is preferred in the science, technical, and other writing arenas. My husband thrives in an engineering field. He writes in passive voice all the time, and if he asks me to edit any part of his work, I tend to rewrite. It’s a habit for me, and it’s a bad one in this situation. Changing from passive to active doesn’t always sound right. In these cases, his writing ends up losing cohesion.
I think active voice in blog posts and ezines provides a sense of immediacy. It conveys meaning in a concise manner, essentially taking the reader from Point A to Point B in a straight line, or the shortest possible string of words.
This brings me to a big question. How many WOW! readers dabble in these and other fields where passive voice is a necessary part of the writing you do? We’d love to hear from you. We’d love to hear from readers on this subject in more detail. How does passive or active voice apply to your professional writing? For what type of job? Technical? Other? Copy writers?
For fiction writers, how do you decide on active versus passive? Is active voice the best for fiction? I’d love to hear from all writers!
Meet Linda Smith-McCormick: WOW's 3rd place Summer Flash Fiction contest winner
Welcome one and all to my interview with 3rd Place Winner, Linda Smith-McCormick, and our chat—among other things—about her winning story, “Love Is A Plastic Rose.” What a joy she is to talk to and such an inspiration. Here, see for yourselves:
First of all, congratulations on placing third in our summer contest! I was so excited to hear about your placement. Thank you so much, Chynna. I’m extremely thrilled and grateful. I thoroughly enjoyed the 1st and 2nd place stories as well as all of the runners-up. What a difficult job it must be to judge.
Oh my goodness, Linda. You are so right—it is tremendously difficult to judge the entries. I loved Love Is A Plastic Rose. When I read the piece, it brought tears to my eyes. With so much experience as a comedienne and comedy actress, where did this beautiful, heart-string-tugging story sprout from?
It’s so rewarding to know it moved you, Chynna. It also brought tears to my eyes while I was writing it. Except for a few insignificant details, the story is true. The ending is exactly as it happened and I do in fact still have the rose. So I can say my parents helped me write my story, although they passed-on many years ago! And because that particular visit to their gravesite was a peak, mysterious and spiritual moment in my life, the Summer ’07 story prompt seemed to offer a serendipitous opportunity of honoring that precious gift.
In regard to my acting, stand-up and comedy improv background, I do enjoy writing humor and often laugh out loud when it’s going well (my Pug dog thinks I’m a bit loony.) However, my guiding motivation in all my writing is exploring human emotion--and laughter is definitely an emotional expression we all need. (I have an uncanny grasp of the obvious!)
If you have a moment, please take a look at my Fantasy Interview I recently posted on my Blog. I “improvised” an interview pretending I was a hugely successful author. (Please forgive my shameful Blog Plug--the address is below.) Hopefully you’ll get a quick chuckle and maybe try it yourself. It was a blast to create and thoroughly cleaned out my mental cobwebs.
(Laughter) Linda, plug away! I totally agree with you about laughter being something we all need. I’ll be sure to check out your blog. Where did your passion for writing stem from? When did you decide to throw your work into the publishing arena?
In my twenties I developed a raging passion to write because I heard it was an easy way to get filthy rich and immensely famous with little or no effort, minimal education and no need for self-discipline. (Just kidding, obviously!)
Actually, the first memory I have of wanting to write was when I was five years old. I told an elaborate and very convincing lie to my mother that our kindergarten teacher gave our class an assignment to write a story. (I still feel a little bad about the fib, but my wonderful mother never even scolded me.) Fifty-four years later, I’ve decided to buckle-down and get serious about writing. I look at my age as an advantage--a deep well of life experience. I say getting older is a real blessing.
I totally agree with you. As we get older, we write more from experience rather than merely raw emotion (which can also be good). Can you tell us about your publishing credits?
I’ve had an offer from an online ebook publisher to contract my collection of short stories (each one features a plus-sized heroine/protagonist) and will have a poem appear in an up-coming local magazine. Otherwise, I’ve no publishing credits but only recently started dipping my toes in the pool.
However, I have to say this contest has motivated me to strut over to the diving board and do a triple-flip with a twist!
(Laughter) Hey! You’re now a published writer here on WOW! Let’s delve into the subject of your short stories. I loved your brief introduction to your "other passion." Can you tell us more about that? My entire life I’ve been fat. Denigrating fat people is still an acceptable form of discrimination in the United States. I won’t climb up on a soapbox here, but suffice it to say that fat people, especially fat women, are subjugated, ridiculed and discounted in our thin-worshipping society. Our culture suffers because this prejudice deflates millions of women’s creative potential! The only attention we fat folks receive is when we’re marketing targets for weight-loss rip-offs. If I sound angry--well, I am! I threw away many years of my life because I allowed this oppressive attitude to stomp me in the ground. I’m determined now to do whatever I can in my writing to celebrate, empower and embrace other ladies of size. I’d love to organize an online fat lady support group for all artistic, creative goddesses of girth!
I appreciate your passion about this subject, Linda. What I admire the most is that you use your passion to create awareness, without bitterness. And with awareness comes understanding. I think you’ve already covered this question but--what inspires you in your writing?
Oops. I’m afraid I pretty much answered that in the previous question. But I’ll use this space to mention an unusual method that has helped me enhance and enjoy writing. I really can’t expand on it here as it would take up too much room, but I take advantage of my training and experience as a comedy improviser.
The art and craft of successful comedy improv is based on a specific, solid and structured technique that consists of several basic elements which neutralize ego and precipitate moments of spontaneous, creative magic. Having taught, directed and performed comedy improv for over 10 years, I’m fortunate to be intimately familiar with these creative and “freeing” tools. When I began to consciously employ this experimental way of writing, the entire process became much less difficult and much more fun and rewarding. It helped me navigate the treacherous, frustrating minefield I stumbled through every time I sat down at my computer.
I recall many times when I would spend 5 to 6 minutes fretting over just one miserable adjective. That consistent anguish was one of the reasons I waited so long to seriously pursue writing. I longed to write with all my heart but found every attempt to be a painful, stress-filled struggle! Now whenever those nasty little trolls rear their heads, I know it’s time to take a break. Inevitably, when I return to my computer, they’ve wandered off due to lack of attention!
Good for you, Linda. And just so you know—even writers who’ve been around for many years still fret over those adjectives! Do you have any words of wisdom for future contestants?
“Words of wisdom”--so funny to contemplate but I’ll try. Because this entry was to be a short, short story (500 words or less), I wrote the first draft without stopping. Happily, it had just flowed and I was already pleased with the quickly written draft. I immediately went back and devoted at least 3 or 4 enjoyable hours tweaking, revising, editing, etc. I say enjoyable as I had already fallen in love with the story. I had written it several weeks before the entry deadline, so I put it out of mind and allowed my story to stew--to simmer for a few days--covered.
Later, when I read it with fresh eyes, I could easily spot and eliminate lurking, unnecessary words. I found additional verbs to punch-up and made sure I had engaged all five senses. When I read it over 2 or 3 more times and couldn’t find even one opportunity for improvement, I blew it a kiss and tossed it into cyberspace. Following that action, I sat back, relaxed, and smiled until my face hurt. I felt so lucky.
Linda, those are certainly words to take note of. It’s especially important to write, take a break then edit. Excellent! Any writing in the works we should watch out for?
Why, thanks for asking! A few years ago I wrote a feature-length screenplay with Camryn Mannheim in mind for the lead role. My inspiration hit the night I saw her accept her Emmy. She held it up high above her head and shouted, “This is for all the fat girls!” I remember getting choked-up. How amazing someone in Hollywood bucked the trend and finally saluted we fat girls! I decided I wanted to do something in honor of the beautiful, proud and empowered Ms. Mannheim, so I wrote a script that I, and hopefully other fat ladies, would love to see produced. I titled it “Release,” and immediately registered it.
Now, thanks to the WOW! Contest’s acknowledgment, I’m going forward, armed with a new confidence, a blueberry bagel and a comfortable pair of running shoes. I WILL find an agent! I WILL sell it! I know this for certain because I WON’T allow anything, or anyone (including myself) to stop me!
I wish the same for all of you wonderful, women writers!
My sincere thanks to you, Chynna, Ms. DeChiara and everyone at WOW!
No, Linda, thank you for such an inspiring and heartfelt interview. It was my pleasure to get to know you and I know other writers will also be inspired by you. And, for the record, I love Camryn Mannheim too.
Well, what are you waiting for future contest winners? Follow Linda’s lead and submit to our Fall Nonfiction Essay contest.
Linda has performed as a stage actor, stand-up comedienne and in comedy improvisation troupes. Now, at 59 and almost “grown-up,” she’s pursuing my life-long love affair with writing. Her other passion is celebrating and empowering plus-sized women (like herself) to dance their creative dreams--body size doesn't matter, the size of mind and heart does.Her writing features mostly fat heroines including a feature-length screenplay, a collection of 13 short stories and a mystery/crime novel in progress.
Linda also wanted to send this message to future contestants: “Finally, to WOW! and all who entered, I congratulate YOU!”
Whatever article I’m writing, the little MS Word leprechaun gets into my head. I don’t know if you all do this, but if you don’t, I’m sorry to have mentioned it!
I specifically use it to check for passive sentences, and I challenge myself to get 0% in every article I write. Most of the time this is impossible because MS Word doesn’t understand phrases and terms that are common to us, but not real to them. For instance, it still doesn’t consider “blogging” a real word. And we know it most certainly is!
The Readability Statistics of MS Word includes:
• Counts: the number of words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences in the document.
• Averages: average sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word.
• Readability statistics: percentage of passive sentences in the document, Flesch Reading Ease score, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.
To view these statistics and to make sure your writing is easy to read for the web, a blog post, or article you submit, here are some basic instructions:
• Go to the Tools menu and select Options.
• Click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
• Tick the Check grammar with spelling and Show readability statistics checkboxes.
• Click OK.
• Go to the Tools menu and select Spelling and Grammar (or with a Mac, select Show Readability Statistics.)
Now you can join the fun! Take an article you recently wrote, open it up in MS Word, and click on “Spelling and Grammar.” You’ll see a list of readability statistics. Here’s where I cross my fingers and expect to see 0% passive sentences. (So far, so good!)
Figuring out what the Statistics Mean:
Words come first: This is always helpful when submitting an article to a publication, contest, or even trying to figure out how many words are in your blog post. This tool also counts the number of characters (a handy tool for meta-tags and SEO), how many paragraphs you’ve written, and how many sentences.
Sentences Per Paragraph: When writing for the web you want to make sure that each paragraph is tight, and contains the least amount of sentences to make it digestible for web-friendly reading. Think of it in small chunks with easy-to-pick-out information contained in each paragraph.
Words Per Sentence: This section has a lot to deal with the readability level. For some reason, the shorter the sentences, the higher the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score. A general rule is that there should be no more than 15-20 words per sentence. Go figure.
Now, onto my favorite (and addicting) part...
Figuring out what the Readability Statistics Mean:
This area is all about your writing style and how it relates to your readers.
Passive Sentences: The statistics state that if the percentage is higher than 15% then you’ve written something pretty terrible and completely mushy in language. Like I said, this is my challenge in every article that I write. I strive for 0% and pretty much hit it every time when I’m writing an article, sans interview. Believe it or not, so far this article is at 0%--even with all my adjectives!
Flesch: If the Flesch Reading score is greater than 65%, or the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score is greater than 5-7 (for younger readers), 5-9 (general readers), or 7-12 (literary readers) then you need to reexamine your article and see if it’s fit for the publication you’re writing it for.
The Flesch levels also count for reading speed. The simpler and shorter the sentence the higher the score. With our readers, I don’t necessarily account for these statistics, because you’re all writers! But when writing for a younger publication, or copywriting, or a general blog, you may want to consider these numbers.
Open up an article you recently wrote, or a blog post.
Tell us the percentages of your Passive Sentences, Flesch Reading Score, and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.
Pretty soon you’ll be addicted to judging your articles on Passive Sentences! Even with all this blabbering, I had to make a point. It’s not that hard to rearrange your sentences to come out hitting 0%. Now I challenge you to make a 0% passive sentence article!
(See this article's statistics in the picture above)
The Facts About Fiction: A Chat With Romance Novelist Carole Bellacera
For those of us who write mostly in the nonfiction area, the move into fiction may not be as easy as we think. I found out the hard way.
Last year, I enrolled in a course called Creative Writing In Prose to fulfill an elective requirement for my degree. I thought the course would be easy because I’m already a writer. Boy, was I in for an eye-opener.
I erroneously believed the course would be a breeze because I was already a published writer. How much more did I need to know? When I received a 68 percent on the first assignment, I thought the professor was just a hard marker. That was until I got Romance Novelist extraordinaire, Carole Bellacera, to review my assignment for me. She agreed with the mark I got.
“Fiction writing is an entirely different kettle of fish, Chynna,” she said. “In Nonfiction, you’re talking from experience. With Fiction, you’re telling a story. Period. If you can’t tell a story, you can’t write fiction.”
By the third assignment--which didn’t get a much higher mark than the first one--I realized Carole was right. I had to stop being cocky and figure out the keys to good fiction writing.
I asked Carole to fire some tips at me that I could tape to my monitor. With six successful novels under her belt, I figured she was a good writing chef to ask which fiction ingredients I should have in my writing pantry at all times.
Here are some of those secret ingredients:
(1) In your opinion, Carole, what aspects of fiction should a writer keep in mind while writing their stories? Two of the most important things, in my opinion, are to keep the story moving forward and to stay in the viewpoint of your main character. Tell the story as if you are the character.
(2) I know viewpoint can be a tough thing to remember. What things should a person going from strictly nonfiction keep in mind when moving into fiction writing? Use emotion, “show” instead of “tell,” and remember that your story has to have plot.
(3) What great tidbits of advice. So, how does a writer “show” and not “tell” and when is it ok to “tell”? You show and not tell when you’re inside the viewpoint of your character and make your reader feel what the character feels. It’s okay to “tell” when you’re relaying factual information that really doesn’t have an impact on the plot or transitioning from one scene to another. But keep it short.
(4) Knowing when to “tell” is important and something I often have to remind myself of. Do you have tips for good, effective dialogue? Listen to people talk. That’s the best way to learn how to write effective dialogue. Keep it real. Don’t be too “on the nose” with dialogue. People rarely say exactly what they mean. And don’t write long paragraphs of dialogue. People don’t usually talk in speeches either. Unless, of course, you have a droll character who does exactly that--and that would be a personality trait.
(5) It’s fascinating just listening to people talk (just don’t look like you’re eavesdropping). What sorts of things can a fiction writer do to perfect his or her craft? Most important: read constantly. Read the kinds of books you want to write. It’s the best way to learn. Writing classes and seminars are great too.
(6) I can vouch for writing classes. They've helped me finetune my craft a lot. Where can a fiction writer try to submit their work to get published and what advice would you give to him or her during the process? This is a tough question, and I don’t have a good answer for it. You get published by studying the marketplace, and by submitting to places that might be a good fit for your writing style. There’s no “magic pill” to getting published. If there were, I’d be the first to get my hands on it As for advice, the best advice I can give is to believe in yourself and never give up.
(7) That’s so true. When we receive rejection after rejection, the most important thing we should never forget to do is to believe in ourselves. Thanks for that reminder. What, in your opinion, is the difference between fiction and creative nonfiction? There may be a definition out there, but I don’t know what it is. I can tell you what I think the difference is. Fiction is the stories of imagination made up by the author. Creative Nonfiction is true stories written with fictional techniques that bring the stories to life, such as dramatization (think Literary Mama or Creative Nonfiction magazines).
(8) Thanks for your perspective. Where can a writer draw inspiration from for stories? Where do you find your inspiration? A writer can draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. I have found inspiration by many different means--dreams, overheard conversations, music. The idea for my latest women’s fiction novel, Understudy, came to me through a conversation with a nurse who told me about a situation in the ER when two boys were brought in after a car accident, and their identities were mixed up. That became the premise for my book.
(9) I loved Understudy and always wondered where you got the idea for that novel. I'vegotten so many ideas from dreams and music. How about “writer’s block”? What can you tell writers who find themselves staring at that cursor on the screen? Sometimes, it helps just to take a break from writing and wait for it to pass, If I’m having trouble with a particular scene, I go back to my characters and think about their background and motivation. That usually helps me start writing again.
(10) Breaks are so important. I find I regularly have to empty my brain before jumping back into my story. What final words of advice would you give to a writer with dreams of “making it” as a writer? As I said earlier, most it’s most important to believe in yourself, and never give up--no matter how many rejections you receive. The strong, and talented, will prevail.
Thank you so much, Carole.
I’ve passed the following similar advice on to people who’ve asked me some of the same questions: Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and never give up. Rejections are badges of honor. Wear them with pride and keep going.
Oh! And I should mention the last assignment I did for that professor (Jess Shaddup ‘N Drive) got an A. I’ll have it up on my website next week.
Do you have any words of wisdom or tips for writing fiction? Have you written successfully for both fiction and nonfiction and have handy dandy tips for fellow writers? Share them here!Happy writing (and Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!). Chynna http://www.lilywolfwords.ca/
***************************** You can see Carole's work, including an excerpt from her soon-to-be released novel, Tango's Edge, on her website at http://www.carolebellacera.com/. She also has a line of gorgeous bead jewelry you can buy through her site. Don't miss her selection of original pieces. And make sure you pick up one of her novels soon.
For Immediate Release Contact: Carolyn Howard-Johnson E-mail: HoJoNews@aol.com Or Publicist at www.redenginepress.com ISBN: 9780978515874 Publisher: Red Engine Press Wholesaler: Baker & Taylor Release Date: October 1, 2007
Editor/Author/Publicist Newest Book Reaches Amazon's Top Ten in PreSales
The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward To Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success reached the top ten in its category (editing) on Amazon in presale efforts.
The Frugal Editor is the second in the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers after The Frugal Editor: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't which is a USA Book News Best Professional Book and Irwin Award Winner. The Frugal Editor helps writers jigger their computers to work with them instead of against them to produce everything from picture-perfect query letters to full manuscripts. It also includes advice from 20 of the nation's top agents on how to avoid appearing like an amateur and a appendices that include contact information for those agents.
The Frugal Editor will foil the gremlins out there determined to keep authors' works from being published, their books from being promoted. They—resolved to embarrass writers before the gatekeepers who can turn the key of success for them—lurk in their subconscious minds and the depths of their computer programs. With the release of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s The Frugal Editor writers can take control of their own futures—from first query letter to final galley.
The author says, "This series is the result of a combination of experience gained through trial and error in promoting my own literary works and my professional experience in marketing, PR, journalism, editing and publishing in general."
Howard-Johnson in an instructor for UCLA Extension's Writers' Program and was named Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by members of the California legislature. In addition to dozens of literary awards and honors, she was also honored by her city's Ethics Committee and the Pasadena Weekly. She was also recently named outstanding woman by American Business Women's Association.
A rose by any other name still smells just as sweet. But if I asked you to go smell my skunks would you want to, even though I had roses in mind?
Names are powerful words. Some Indian tribes believed their names were connected to their inner spirit. One religion believes they are called from the grave into paradise by their secret name. And Lazarus was called forth from the tomb with his name.
In Bible days, parents named their children with care. They were named for character traits, their looks, or for the hopes and dreams of their parents. Even today, parents think long and hard before naming their children. I am named after my mother and my dad’s mother. My son is named after his father and a very dear friend of mine. I’m sure each parent can tell similar stories too. But do we give our character’s names as much thought?
Characters need great names. They need names and nicknames that fit them. They need names that fit the story. For example, a stockbroker working on Wall Street probably wouldn’t be a man named “Bubba.” Kate is less formal than Katherine. Is Katherine a bit haughty perhaps while Kate is down to earth and possibly a tomboy? Is Elizabeth more formal while Lizzy is fun-loving and friendly? Matt brings to mind a different person than Seymour or Stanley.
Names tell us about the character’s family or race too. Jaworski is probably Polish. O’Rourke...possibly Irish. Be sure to remember the stereotypes that come with many names. Does that fit in with your story? Can it be used to make the story better or the character more real? Just like “the boy named Sue,” the names our characters grow up with sometimes determines personality, motives and actions.
Names can also do the unexpected. How many of us would consider Buffy as a vampire slayer’s name? Does Tiffany sound like a police officer or Francis a bull rider? Yet these names will work if you let the reader see the uniqueness of your character. Is Tiffany the police officer taken seriously, does Francis the bull rider get teased?
Character names can be an important part of the story. They deserve special consideration in each and every story, be sure to give it to them.
In my article, Three C’s to Better Romance Writing, I made the passing comment that a romance is only a romance if the formula is present. (the three C’s to keep in mind when creating great romantic novels—for those of you who are wondering—are CONCENTRATE ON CONFLICT, CREATE COMPELLING CHARACTERS, and CARESS YOUR READER’S IMAGINATION) Many have asked me since, “How can a story be fresh and exciting and formulaic at the same time?” It does seem a little oxymoronic, but not only can it be done, it must be done.
No one wants to repeatedly read the same story, so our plots must be fresh and exciting, and no one wants to read a romance where the romance isn’t included. So, while we are weaving those compelling characters that are kept apart by a realistic conflict which caresses readers’ imaginations, we must always keep in mind the basic romance formula: Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl back. If that formula isn’t in all our novels, then our novels aren’t romances. To evaluate how this formula can be used repeatedly, and still remain fresh and necessary, let’s look at different movies from the last decade:
Twister (1996) Jo Harding and Bill Harding
We’ll start here because I can hear many saying, “wait a minute, this movie isn’t a romance.” But, ah, it is. The romance is surrounded by chaos and destruction, but the main storyline is the relationship of Jo Harding and Bill Harding.
Jo and Bill Harding are in the process of a divorce. Bill approaches Jo (new fiancée en- tow) because she has yet to sign the final divorce papers. In this tale, Boy has already lost Girl in the back story, but because Boy has lost Girl, we must conclude that Boy had Girl to lose! Thus, the movie begins at the “Boy gets girl back” stage of the plot.
Throughout the movie, we discover the conflict that broke up the marriage—caused Boy to lose Girl. Jo is obsessed with developing an early-warning system to help save people from a destructive tornado. This obsession is spurred by a childhood trauma in which her family was trapped by a severe tornado, which makes the obsession—and therefore, the conflict—realistic. This drive consumed her so much that her marriage suffered. Of course, by the end of the film, Boy has Girl back.
In this romance, both the hero and heroine still love each other. Even though Bill has moved on, there is a spot in his heart that belongs to Jo. This is evident from the beginning of the story. We also know immediately, that Jo still loves Bill because she didn’t sign the divorce papers. The conflicts that keep them apart are both internal and external: Internally, they both know they couldn’t make it work the “first time” (hence the divorce) so what makes them think giving it another shot would work, since the same issues that tore them apart are still unresolved? Externally, Bill has moved on, and is planning a second marriage. By the time “boy gets girl back,” Jo has come to terms with her obsession (emotionally, and physically, by finding success in her invention), and Bill’s fiancée has left of her own free will. And so, we have our happily ever-after ending.
Fools Rush In (1997) Alex Whitman and Isabel Fuentes Whitman
Alex Whitman and Isabel Fuentes meet by chance, hit it off, have a one night fling, and then don’t see each other again for a few months, when Isabel shows up at Alex’s house to tell him that she’s pregnant. Here we already have Boy gets Girl and Boy loses Girl. It’s not long before Alex decides to marry Isabel, so in the first third of the movie the romance formula has come full circle—to a degree.
The formula can neither be used that easily, nor that quickly, else we have a shallow and uninteresting plot, and that is why this movie is a perfect example of how you can layer the formula. Alex and Isabel by are married now, but their lives do not come together easily. They want completely different things out of life. Isabel cherishes family; Alex couldn’t care less about that. Isabel wants to stay in Las Vegas; Alex wants to move out of state. Here we have our developing conflict, until finally, it all comes to a head and Isabel leaves Alex, telling him that the baby has miscarried; therefore there is no reason for them to be married. (Boy loses Girl. . .again).
But, Alex loves Isabel by this point in the film, and thus, travels to Mexico, where Isabel has gone to seek solace. However, he just misses Isabel, who has traveled back to the U.S. for their baby to be born (Isabel had lied about the miscarriage because, guess, what, she loves Alex and doesn’t want to keep him from his life-dreams). They meet at the Hoover Dam, Isabel goes into labour on the Arizona-Nevada border, they profess their love for each other, so now they are not just married for convenience’s sake, and they all live happily ever after (Boy gets Girl Back).
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann
What this movie is doing on the list, many are asking, since it isn’t a romance. Well, I decided that any movie that starred both Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp, had to be included! Seriously, this one is included as an example of how the romance formula is always present, even when the romance is the secondary plot.
Will Turner meets Elizabeth Swann when they are both pre-teens. She immediately likes him (because she thinks he’s a pirate, and she’s enamoured with pirates). We see this meeting in the beginning of the movie, and then we have a fast-forward to when they are both young adults. In their first meeting after this fast-forward, we are enlightened to the fact that both Will and Elizabeth have secretly liked each other for years. (Boy gets Girl). However, they are kept apart by their economic stations, and neither Will nor Elizabeth can profess their love. (This conflict is what keeps them apart, but it is also Boy losing Girl to a degree).
Before too long, Elizabeth must agree to marry Norrington (Boy loses Girl), but by the end of the movie, Will has saved the day, saved the pirate (Captain Jack Sparrow) and has professed his love to Elizabeth, who returns the affection (Boy gets Girl back).
So we see that even in a story where there are other plots and subplots in abundance, the romance that is interjected, still follows the romance formula.
Failure to Launch (2006) Tripp and Paula
In this movie, we know from the beginning just exactly how Boy is going to lose Girl. Tripp still lives at home with his parents, has no intention of ever moving out, and his parents want to give him the boot. Enter Paula, a relationship therapist who guarantees that she can have Tripp out of his parents’ house (by the end of the film). The way in which Paula intends to do this is to date Tripp—without him knowing, of course, that she has an ulterior motive.
Anytime we have the hero or heroine assuming a false identity in order to force the other’s hand, we know immediately that the break-up is going to happen when the truth comes to light. This makes for great suspense. Just exactly when is the discovery going to be made? How is the secret going to be kept? It’s the making of great conflict.
In this example, we have two layers of Boy gets Girl: the initial layer, which is superficial and easy; the one where Paula begins to date Tripp. And the other—the one in the middle of the film when she actually falls for him.
Then comes the discovery of Paula’s true reason for dating Tripp—which, of course, comes after she loves him and doesn’t want him to find out—and Boy loses Girl. By the time we get to the end of the film, Tripp realizes he needs more than just life with his parents; he needs Paula, and Paula has realized that she doesn’t want to spend her life“tricking” people; she wants Tripp. And guess what? They all live happily ever after.
So, as we can see from our film analysis, the Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl back formula can be used in many ways: It can be layered, as in Fools Rush In. It can be woven around and action adventure, as in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. It can be used in a way where part of the formula is found only in the back-story, as in Twister. But, the formula, in all three of its parts, must be present.
We also need to understand that Girl gets Boy, Girl loses Boy, Girl gets Boy back is also the formula, and that both variations might be utilized in the same novel. You see, we can get creative with a known formula, and as I said in the beginning, we must in order to keep our stories from being stale.
In those plots where the hero and the heroine are married, the Boy loses Girl section of our formula is sometimes only emotional. This is fine, as long as that severance seems complete. If the heroine has emotionally distanced herself from the hero so much that the hero believes there is no way he can salvage the marriage, then an emotional separation is plausible, and the Boy must work through the conflict in order to get his Girl back.
It is also imperative that the Boy losing Girl doesn’t happen until after that crucial “point of no return”. If Boy loses Girl before he loves her, then the break-up will be both unemotional and unbelievable. We want our readers crying for our hero, not thinking he’s irrational or insane. This is why we must weave our conflicts well. Just as in Failure to Launch, Paula has fallen completely for Tripp, before Tripp finds out she was a hired date. If he had found out before Paula loved him, then Paula would have had nothing invested, nothing to lose. As it is, she loses everything by Tripp’s discovery, because by that time in the storyline, she is no longer just a hired girlfriend; she’s there because she wants to be.
So, when analyzing our plots, we must look for the absence of any part of the formula. If we can’t find one of the three slices of the pie in our story, then our story is not a classic romance. If the formula exists, well, we can congratulate ourselves because, we’ve written a romance.
Here’s an exercise that will help strengthen the ability to formulate a great romance plot:
Analyze the following movies. Try to decipher the main conflict. Once the conflict is obvious, figure out why it is such a strong conflict. Why does it work in keeping the hero and heroine apart? Next, discover the point at which Boy gets Girl, and after she is gotten, note the point of no return—that point in the story where Boy losing Girl will be devastating to Boy. Then see the point where Boy loses Girl (it will always come after the point of no return.) Finally, note the conflict resolution which facilitates Boy getting Girl back:
You’ve Got Mail (1998): Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly Never Been Kissed (1999) Josie Geller and Sam Coulson The Wedding Planner (2001) Mary Fiore and Steve Edison 13 Going on 30 (2004) Jenna Rink and Matt Flamhaff
Nicola Beaumont is an award-winning author who has been writing and studying romance for decades. She was founder and publisher of the women’s fiction magazine, Bridges, before selling it in 2000, and she is currently an acquiring editor for The Wild Rose Press.
WOW: Congratulations, Tiffany, for your 2nd Place Win! How did you react once you learned?
Tiffany: When I found out I placed 2nd in the WOW! Women on Writing Summer 2007 Flash Fiction Contest I immediately jumped around the house and started doing the happy dance. I am a passionate and purposeful writer who sincerely appreciates the opportunity WOW! has given me to challenge my writing skills and showcase my work. Thank you!!
WOW: Well, we’re excited for you, too. Of course, now we want to know what encouraged “The Pale Yellow Vase”?
Tiffany: Looking around my house at the pictures and decorations that adorn the walls and furniture, I have come to understand that my style doesn’t fit into any one category; rather, I am a combination of my memories and dreams – a collection of trinkets and captured smiles that surround my family as we live in the rooms that make up our home. These memorable times and feelings represented within tangible souvenirs is what encouraged me to write “The Pale Yellow Vase.”
WOW: What a wonderful inspiration! That says something about you, too. But let’s get to know you a little better. In your bio you mentioned that you’ve just finished your young adult novel. Do you care to share a little or a lot about it here?
Tiffany: I would love to share with you the young adult novel I recently finished writing! I have just started the process of trying to find the right agent for this project. I would certainly appreciate any help, guidance, or advice you are able to offer!
Page by page, this 49,164 word young adult novel, The Walking Stick, is a smart, captivating, and surprising discovery filled with magical realism and inspiration that will leave the reader cheering for more! Pearl Winters knows something is terribly wrong. The only thing that seems clear is that her dream of becoming an artist is no longer obtainable. At the age of fifteen, Pearl is told she is losing her sight to an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. While on a camping trip the summer before tenth grade, Pearl discovers a mysterious stick hidden in the roots of an ancient tree. This stick becomes Pearl’s cane, mental crutch, and ultimately, the key to exploring a life she never thought possible. On the same trip, Pearl has a brief encounter with the ever-so-handsome Landon Livingston. Pearl berates herself for being attracted to Landon, telling herself that someone that wonderful would never be interested in her if he knew she was going blind.
As Pearl’s vision digresses and her senior year fast approaches, Pearl retreats both physically and mentally from the outside world. In a surprising twist, Pearl’s walking stick jolts her out of seclusion. The result is an unlikely encounter with the most popular girl in high school - Katherine Sparks. Their time together teaches them how much they have in common regardless of first-impression differences. Katherine introduces Pearl to Landon – the same Landon Pearl met a few years prior. But something is drastically different, Pearl is now completely blind. Will Landon still find Pearl attractive? Will Pearl be willing to find out? Pearl’s story culminates in a courageous moment during senior prom when Pearl lays down her walking stick, embraces Landon’s hand, and boldly takes center stage.
This novel has an authentic voice because I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, and I persevered through many of the teenage challenges Pearl battles in The Walking Stick.
I am positively thrilled about The Walking Stick and hope to put it in the right agent’s hands soon!
WOW: Tiffany, your book sounds positively engaging and intriguing! You’ll have to keep us posted on your progress and let us know when it gets published. So, tell us, how is your agent search coming along?
Tiffany: Searching for an agent has proved to be a more challenging task than what I first imagined. Regardless, I am hanging in for the long haul. As Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” I have definitely not lost my enthusiasm for The Walking Stick. I believe in this story, and I will see it through with gusto!
WOW: You have a type of enthusiasm I’d love to harness and channel into me! Kudos to you. Since you’ve quoted Churchill, I’ll move right into the next question. Have you found inspiration from other books or authors you could recommend?
Tiffany: I enjoy all types and styles of books. Three of my favorites are as follows: “Living, Loving & Learning” by Leo Buscaglia, “The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim, and “Driving Over Lemons” by Chris Stewart. I am inspired by these authors’ simplicity and sophistication – they are obviously passionate about their topic, making me want to turn the page.
WOW: From all your answers to this point, I’d have to say you’re a passionate person in general. This trait will serve you well. So, please tell us, do you have any other specific goals for your writing career?
Tiffany: I made a New Year’s Resolution several years ago to have my first book accepted for publication before my fortieth birthday. I have five more years to go, and I am determined to make this dream a reality!
WOW: I’ve never known a person to be that far ahead of her goals! You’re well on your way. Plus, we learned in your bio that you’ve met other goals. Could you tell us a little about your short stories?
Tiffany: Writing short stories is like eating chocolate cake to me – I love it! Writing takes me to another place, outside of the daily routine and stresses. I get lost in my imagination, and delight in putting a short story to life on paper. Most of the short stories I write have an inspirational, Christian base. I write as a thank-you for His unconditional love.
WOW: I think many writers share your delight. But we know you’re a parent, too. How do you balance parenting with writing? Do you only write when they kids are asleep?
Tiffany: Being a parent of an 11, 9, and 4 year old makes finding a quiet place and time to write a creative work of patience and persistence. My family comes first, and I have an amazingly supportive husband that recognizes when I need help. We are a great team, from the oldest (my husband) to the youngest (my daughter). The time they are with me is primarily devoted to them. After they are in bed or at their activities is when I begin typing. My husband and kids are very supportive of my desire to write, and they encourage me to follow my dreams!
WOW: I’d say you have a fabulous family! You definitely have much to be thankful for! And your answers, by themselves, are a source of inspiration. Your attitude just shines through. I wonder if I could ask for one more--could you end on some motivating words to our audience of writers?
Tiffany: There is always work involved in making your dreams come true. Surround yourself with people who support you, and keep your focus on the positive. It only takes one “yes” to turn it all around. A little faith can make a world of difference. Decide that you are worth the effort, time, and fight – go for it!! The process only stops when you decide to quit.
WOW: Tiffany, thanks so much for your motivating words, your upbeat attitude, and your willingness to share. You’re an interviewer’s gem!
Blogging is free spirited writing at times, but I don’t always have topics popping off the top of my mind. In light of slow times, I pulled together a list of blog topics. Hopefully, it will spark some ideas for anyone else lacking caffeinated creativity one day…
1. The journey of a woman writer 2. Balancing family/work/writing 3. Write about your latest writing project 4. How the change of seasons harm or help writing 5. The impact of specific blogs 6. How to feed a woman writer’s muse 7. The best place to find a new blog topic 8. Eavesdropping on public dialogue 9. How exercise boosts energy for writing 10. The funny side to writing with kids 11. The funny side to writing with pets/husbands 12. Compliment another writer’s work 13. Use a quote and apply it to writing 14. How to ramp up a short story 15. How to cut out useless words in flash fiction 16. Review a writing course or publication 17. Call for help with a writing piece 18. Whet readers’ appetites for a new book 19. Promote your or another writers’ works 20. Give expert advice for boosting the ego 21. Pay something forward to a writer friend 22. Offer another writer a huge compliment 23. Announce another “Going Green” biz 24. Announce online writers conference 25. Post a writer’s contest 26. Discuss your favorite genre/s 27. Post a mini-memoir for publicity 28. Practice creating neologisms 29. Rant about writing stress 30. Highlight a literary magazine 31. Tell us how to get published 32. Expound upon the writer’s dream life 33. Teach the difference between active and passive voice 34. Express your biggest writing wish 35. Give WOW! feedback, suggestions, comments 36. Share a new writer’s resource or gadget 37. Donate a post to someone new to blogging 38. Praise another editor, writer, publisher, agent 39. Share your favorite blog post with a link 40. Write a plea to a presidential candidate (Hillary) 41. Tell a tasteful writer’s joke 42. Men writers are from ____; women writers from ____ 43. Provide SEO and marketing tips for writer sites 44. Write a list of 101 potential blog topics 45. Do a humorous study on the best chocolate for writers 46. Navigate the Internet’s best writer sites 47. Highlight self-publishing information 48. Discuss experience with traditional publishers 49. Share experience with online publishers 50. Buzz your successful contest win 51. Toot another writer’s horn in a contest 52. Apply an activity to writing 53. Close the gap between young & old writers 54. Interview an author 55. Interview an agent 56. Interview an editor 57. Interview a humor columnist 58. Tell us how to break into humor writing 59. Share a writer’s faux pas 60. Talk about the writer’s reputation 61. Talk about your goals as a writer/woman/mother/person 62. Give insight into a popular writing topic 63. Share your favorite writer’s software 64. Explain how to find a writer’s voice 65. Gift a story to a friend 66. Provide a list of fun anagrams 67. Provide a list of fun ambigrams 68. Share the first story you ever wrote 69. Define an exceedingly confusing word 70. Clarify a misunderstood writer 71. Weave a web of mystery 72. Create a scavenger hunt on your site for fans 73. Call for submissions from others 74. Post anonymously to a writer you admire 75. Be yourself and post to a writer you admire 76. List out the writer’s web awards others should seek 77. Ask for camaraderie from others to help with a problem 78. Write a haiku poem, limerick, sonnet, or other 79. Write a cheer to keep writers moving forward 80. Provide blog traffic tips to others 81. Share how you sabotage your own writing 82. Shine the spotlight on a writing guru 83. Flash a beam on a cause that needs our help 84. Advise writers what not to do on queries 85. Advise writers how to do a smashing cover letter 86. Share an illustrator’s experience 87. Double dog dare a writer to share an embarrassing experience 88. Give examples of awesome query hooks 89. Hook us with a fabulous introduction to blogging 90. Lift writers spirits with a list of quotes 91. Motivate others with a writing challenge 92. Explain creative nonfiction 93. Create a new genre and discuss it 94. Give a list of oxymorons 95. Share onomatopoeia terms 96. Describe how to capture life with sensory details 97. Discuss how to cope with rejection letters 98. Give tips for showing emotion in body language 99. Provide your own blopics (blog topics)
Please don't ask what each of these mean. They're open to interpretation for any blogger. Help yourself to the lot. If you find only one to dine on, then you're one up on me on a slow day. Enjoy!